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A new spin on the Affirmative Action question

Just about everyone has heard of Affirmative Action by now.  Affirmative action laws and policies require organizations to make proactive efforts to represent individuals from certain protected classes in the workplace at levels comparable to those for unprotected groups. Affirmative action requirements are separate and distinct from nondiscrimination laws, which prohibit discriminatory acts against protected persons, but do not mandate proactive steps in their favor.

Very few can offer the legal or legislative source for Affirmative Action, so I will.

“The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces the Executive Order 11246, as amended; Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended and the affirmative action provisions (Section 4212) of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, as amended. Taken together, these laws ban discrimination and require Federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or status as a Vietnam era or special disabled veteran.”

In California, our state’s Constitution Article 1, Sec. 31, states: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting” This general ban is followed by a set of exceptions. These exceptions center around policies in response to court orders, consent decrees, or compliance with federal laws in order to receive funding.

There are certain assumptions when dealing with the topic of Affirmative Action. The first is generally that certain minority groups are given preference over other groups. The other, which underpins the first, is that these groups are rather fixed / permanent.

Given the rather delicate state of minority group relations currently, why would I write an article about Affirmative Action or the rights/privileges of minority groups? I do it to call BS on the whole idea of identity politics. I do it because the whole concept is aggressive and relies on large interest groups telling others how they may identify and to which group they may belong. Let me illustrate this using my own story.

The picture above is a screen-grab from a NatGeo special in which I had an on-screen part. Take a look at the picture and what do you see? How would you describe me? How would you describe the screen-grab to your friends?

I presented this question a few years ago to a class of students. I stood before them in a coat and tie and asked them to describe me as they saw me. The answers, white, caucasian, tall, athletic … green eyes, clean cut … etc.

The screen-grab is from a German language version of a show in which I provided photogrammetric analysis of an unknown subject in a particular picture taken at a concentration camp during WWII. Now, students begin to gravitate towards the academic descriptions and some ended up with the conclusion of “white privilege,” as evidenced by my getting screen time on the TV show. Which is where I hoped they’d end up. It was a trap, meant to illustrate a specific point.

Under the the old diagnostic manuals (DSM), I had been diagnosed with various syndromes and disorders to describe how my brain and body worked or didn’t work – all as separate issues. Sensory Processing Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Insomnia, GI problems and food sensitivities, and so on. Under the old DSM, these were all separate problems with separate treatments. Now, with the change from IV to V, the DSM puts these separate issues together (rightly) under the umbrella of autism. Thus, in May of 2013 I went from an adult with a ton of medical issues to an autistic adult. Just like that, I became part of a growing minority group that now make up around 2.25% of the US population. I actually think that number is much larger as many autistic adults haven’t received a diagnosis and thus are not part of the totals.

Getting back to the picture above, where students see the surface and not the constituent parts and history, many are quite shocked to know that this person in the picture is part of a small minority group – and many refuse to offer that description. How can the person in the picture be a minority? How can the person in the picture not benefit from “white privilege?”

Let’s answer that by looking at current events. Start with “police brutality” and the complaints from minorities about how they’re treated by the police during the most benign of encounters. I’m sure I don’t have to link to any of the thousands of stories covered in the last few decades. But did you know that autistic adults and parents of autistic children have similar fears in dealing with the police? notes, “[Autistic people] are estimated to have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement agencies during their lifetimes.  Yet, only 20% of patrol responses related to autistic individuals are related to criminal activity.  Interacting with a child or adult who has an autism spectrum disorder will challenge your experience, training and patience.” Wow. Substitute “autism” with any racial identifier and folks would be out of their minds and protesting on the streets over this article. But they aren’t, are they?

What about employment prospects? “For adults on the autism spectrum, finding and keeping jobs is difficult at best and often simply impossible. We know this anecdotally, but studies are bearing this out with increasing regularity. Adults with ASD are chronically unemployed or underemployed. While these numbers certainly include a small population of adults whose autism or co-morbid condition renders them unable to work, many adults on the spectrum might well be employed more fully with more effective supports.” I know this from personal experience. I am very fortunate to have a job. I met a man a while ago who wanted to take his agency down a path that was well within my special interests and talents. He was willing to offer the supports that I needed to get the job done and to be successful. Sadly, he is no longer around in that role and those supports are under review. We hear politicians talking about minority labor participation and unemployment rates. We don’t hear that the numbers are much worse for autistic people. Why?

So to the central theme, Affirmative Action. According to Kaiser and the government, I am a disabled adult. But, my disability isn’t visible. What is visible is my light skin and light eyes. So I don’t get protections for being part of a minority group – I am visibly “white,” even though I’m “invisibly” disabled. I have had various people in my life who have pushed me to actualize my potential and to leverage my autistic brain’s talents and interests. I have had levels of success. This, plus the “white” skin means I’m privileged and not disabled. Silly, I think.

This issue, the fallacy that is Affirmative Action, was one of many that lead me away from the Democrat Party and to the Libertarian Party. As a Democrat, I was just “white” and “male.” I didn’t get to define these, they were chosen for me by the dominant group. Even though I didn’t identify myself by my pigment or sex, they did. They put me in a box from which there is no escape. No matter my problems with speech and preference for the written over the verbal. No matter my social ineptitude or social anxiety. No matter my problems with facial recognition. No matter my problems with crowds, bright lights, loud sounds, and other sensory issues. No matter my problems eating just about anything. It doesn’t matter because I’m a “white man.”

Thankfully, the Libertarian Party does not engage in identity politics. With the LP, you are free to be the best YOU that YOU can be. You are free to be whatever kind of you that you want to be. If you want to change, great, go for it. What ever makes you Alive, Free, Happy. It’s quite refreshing to be part of a group where you can just be who you are.

So take it from someone with sensory processing issues, things aren’t always what they seem. Affirmative Action seems like it good thing. Sadly, like many of the good intentions of the Democrats/Republicans, they’re a trap; a box from which there is little chance of escape.

Join me outside of the box. Join the Libertarian Party and the movement of free and happy individuals trying to secure the rights of the smallest minority – the individual.

“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” – Ayn Rand

Truth vs. Fact

I often get asked about my role as a scientist in light of my primary employer. “Have you ever worked for the defense?” How does it feel working for law enforcement?” These are just a few of the questions that I’ve faced in trial.

As a scientist, I really don’t have a dog in the fight. My answer to that line of questioning usually goes like this, “Regardless of who’s signature is on my pay cheque, I work for the Trier of Fact – assisting the judge and jury in correctly interpreting these complex pieces of evidence. The results of my tests are grounded in science. They are reliable and repeatable. My tools and techniques are based on generally accepted, peer reviewed image science. The academic references for the algorithms used, for each of the steps performed, are noted in my report.”

That being said, I have assisted the court in uncovering fraudulent evidence presented as impeachment evidence in People v. Abdullah (BA353334). It could be said, in that case, that I was working in the defense of the accused. But again, I was there to assist the Trier of Fact in correctly interpreting the evidence. In that case, the correct interpretation was that it was a forgery. In Hor v. City of Seattle, I assisted the Trier of Fact in correctly answering the question about if/when a particular sound is heard in a recording (10-2-34403-9SEA) – seemingly in the defense of the City of Seattle – but more correctly in defense of the facts of the matter.

Trier of Fact n. the judge or jury responsible for deciding factual issues in a trial. If there is no jury the judge is the trier of fact as well as the trier of the law. In administrative hearings, an administrative law judge, a board, commission, or referee may be the trier of fact.

Taken a step further, there are certain trade groups that are geared towards law enforcement that will expel a member who is perceived or accused of having worked “for the defense.” The perception is that law enforcement are the “good guys” and the criminal defendants are the “bad guys.” Yet, to an image scientist, a 1 or a 0 is neither good nor bad. They’re just numbers. I’ve worked a few cases where the government’s “experts” got everything completely wrong, their work product was not repeatable nor grounded in science, and thus their conclusion was complete rubbish (scientifically speaking). In these cases, who’s the “good guy” and who’s the “bad guy?”

[As a side note, in the famous treason trial of Aaron Burr, he was defended by Edmund Randolph and Luther Martin, both delegates to the Constitutional Convention and among the most prominent men of the day. The Burr trial is one of the more famous examples of how politics and ego can enter into court proceedings.]

But back to the point, if you’re one of those scientists that think in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys,” are you not biased towards a presupposed outcome – good will overcome evil and the bad guys will be punished? Is this form of presuppositional bias a good thing or a bad thing for scientists who serve the court system? I am certainly not one of those types of scientists. I work the case and the facts are the facts, regardless of who is signing my paycheck.

In the end, A either equals A or it doesn’t.

It’s with this in mind that I received and began to read Ferguson, MO: What Really Happened: A Systematic Scientific Analysis by Bruce E. Krell, PhD.

Truth vs. Fact

If we are to rely upon the media and various special interest groups to inform the Trier of Fact in Ferguson, MO, as to the “truths” of the case, the shooting incident will look a certain way depending on which “truths” are presented. White vs. Black. Powerful vs. powerless. State vs. the people. Bully vs. bullied. Etc. But true experts are relied upon to present facts. In this case, Dr. Krell uses his many years of experience in reconstructing shooting incidents to examine the facts and come to a conclusion. His science is presented without distractions and superfluities. In a very methodical way, Dr. Krell takes the reader through the crime scene to examine what actually happened – what the evidence at the scene says happened.

It’s a thoroughly refreshing point of view – science (facts), as opposed to the many political angles that have been previously presented (truths). It may be uncomfortable to read, but facts are facts. Dr. Krell is working neither for the state or the people, neither for the prosecution or the defense. He’s working for the Trier of Fact, applying the science of shooting incident reconstruction to the evidence in the case.

Three cheers for Dr. Krell, though I doubt the biased media outlets will pick up on this book. Unfortunately, the facts of the matter don’t fit their narrative.

Education is already free, Bernie.

In a recent debate between rivals for the Democrat party’s nomination for the upcoming Presidential election, Sen. Bernie Sanders made several references as to why/how college education should be free in the US. Not to be outdone, our former Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, seemed to allude that not only should a college education be free to citizens, but to undocumented migrants as well.

Lost in the weeds of the discussion is the question – do folks want a free “education” or a free “undergraduate degree?” It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but the difference is, as Donald Trump might say, huuuugggge.

First and foremost, education is simply the act or process of being educated. Education is, and has always been, free. Yes, that’s right. It’s a simple process. You identify something that you want to know more about. You find out more about that something. You’re now educated on that something. Simple enough, yes.

As an example, I want to build a strong and durable fence around 3/4 of my property. I don’t want to spend a ton of money, I want to source materials locally, and I want to do it as a project that involves my children’s schooling. My oldest daughter and I set about to educate ourselves as to historical wall/fence building techniques in our rural area, then broadened the search to include techniques from cultures who’ve existed in areas with similar geography and climate. We ended up finding that the beginning of the China’s Great Wall in the Gobi had the right design features and materials to match what we wanted to do. We’ve got plenty of dirt and our local lake has a problem with cat tails / bull rush that need constant clearing (free materials). The info we found even suggested building methods that could easily be adapted to our modern situation. So it is, my daughter and I are now “educated” as to an appropriate building method to construct a wall around our property (I seriously doubt that the original builders of the wall in the Gobi were required to have a degree a degree in structural engineering and certification as a civil engineer).

In another example, I recently completed an on-line class on Human Vision and Perception (continuing education for my profession) at Duke University for free, part of the Coursera project’s offerings. With Coursera, you can take classes from some of the “best” colleges and universities in the world for free.

Pick your topic, and the internet can supply you with a ton of information so that you can educate yourself.

But folks really don’t want an “education.” They want a free “degree.” Amazingly enough, those opportunities exist as well. Check out the University of the People’s web site to find out how to earn a degree in Business Administration or Computer Science on-line for “free.” But even the UOP program isn’t entirely free, there’s still a sign-up fee and fees to take exams. But, it’s pretty cheap.

Ok. We’ve found a “free” degree for folks. That should be it, right? Not even close.

The first objection will be to the on-line format. Then, it will be to the status of their accreditation. Then, the complaints will be towards the ability to leverage the degree earned from UOP in gaining employment (after all, the lawyers on Suits all come from Harvard). All of which are BS. For many young people, the college experience as such is just a 6 year extension of their childhood and a delay of accepting full responsibility for their lives. How many go to college to “find themselves?” I did. Should tax payers have to fund this “fact finding mission?” No.

The way we should handle “education,” if the Libertarians were involved in the discussion, is to focus on the market. Moral capitalism seeks to fill a need. I see that folks need X to make their lives more livable, safe, fun, etc. I provide X at a reasonable price. I make money to support my efforts and folks have their lives enriched. The market reacts to what I’m doing, spurring further innovation. Education, and “finding yourself,” should be centered around finding those things that each of us can do to better our situation and the situation of those around us. We should be raising generation after generation of entrepreneurs, inventors, builders, artists, … We should not be paying for an “education” in General Studies so that the graduate can be a well rounded delivery driver for the local pizza franchise.

Thus, as no one is calling BS on the media or the Democrats, I will. Education is already free. A university degree can also be earned at little/no cost to the student.

So what do they really want?